Accidents at Russian military ammunition dumps have occurred with distressing regularity over the past several years. There were two more such incidents this weekend at bases in Central Russia on the Volga River. Early Saturday morning, more than 6,000 23-millimeter aircraft cannon shells exploded during a fire at the strategic air base at Engels, near Saratov. Late that night, more than 2,000 tank shells exploded at another fire at an 8th Guards Tank Corps ammunition depot on the outskirts of Volgograd.
Ironically, the cannon shells at Engels had been brought there from the airbase at Mozduk, North Ossetia — to get them out of harm’s way. The Mozduk base is just a few kilometers from the border with Chechnya. In poor condition, the shells were to be scrapped. Without releasing many details, military authorities quickly suggested that both accidents had been caused by negligence.
Following the explosion of a Navy mine depot in Vladivostok last November, the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office began a large-scale investigation into the way military arms and explosives were being guarded. Apparently, more work needs to be done in this area. (Russian and foreign media, February 21-22)
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